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Jon Chandler : Brutal Modernist

Born in coastal Suffolk in 1977, Jonathan Chandler studied film under Tony Hill.

After film school he fell in with the Famicon Collective.

His works have been described as “scorched-earth sex nightmares” often playing out as Darwinian struggles in bleak undefined landscapes.

2016 saw the release of his first novel, crime thriller Bad Man Standing, from Landfill Editions.

He is resident artist for the Folk Horror Cinema Club.

His forthcoming vanta black comedy comics collection Wet Shape In The Dark will be published by Breakdown Press in Summer 2018, the home of his ongoing crime and body-horror comic John’s Worth.

Chandler has just made available a two-edition archive collection- Be Careful What You Read—a collection spanning a decade of comics and drawings from 2006-2016. The book is available from him directly: see his blog for details at jonathanchandler.tumblr.com and follow him @newmancruise

Describe yourself with one word or short phrase
The UK’s most isolated cartoonist, so they say.
Is there a personally relevant quote or statement that you find agreeable?
“Waking, a half mat. Sleeping, one mat. Rule the nation, a fistful of rice”
“When we die, a fistful of ash… That’s all we are.”
Headless Sakon from Lone Wolf & Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.

Do you have a religious belief? describe it-
Agnosticism. All the way. Even if a supposed more advanced species told us there is Godlife, don’t ever believe them as a matter of faith.

Is there something beyond our universe?
Certitudes is not my game. There would be a possibilitty of deceit in the matter, even if it was revealed that there was such a thing.

Is there intelligent life elsewhere in this universe?
I have seen ‘crafts’ of what could presumably be created by entities from beyond. If it was some kind of false projection (and on two of those occasions it was a group projection) then it would be hard not to believe that is not also indicating an outside force playing games of its own device we’ll probably never fathom.

Can a person be motivated by desires that are not–ultimately– selfish?
In John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of the alien bifurcations acting as a human gives up one of the other hosts – as a matter of self preservation to improve its/his standing in the human group.
Sometimes I wonder how the alien that was given up felt about it.

Does thought require language?
I spend a lot of time alone. When I get back to social circles I find a terrible trouble to put into words some thoughts which are quite clear to me, because I have never had to speak them. But sometimes language can be a great clarifier. A friend once said that the more alone you are the more right you become. At times when I go to voice these thoughts, that I may have had repeatedly and over long periods, I find that they are actually fairly baseless in some way. It could be down to the failure of language, or that the familiar grooves of language that oil communication in my culture just aren’t able to service them. At these times you may have to retreat and put the thought away for later consideration, perverted as it now is by language.

What is time?
The funny maths answer is that time + human life = guilt.
I once came up with a lousy analogy that time is a fully formed loaf of bread, but that humans can only experience it one slice at a time. Yeah I know it needs working on.

What did you last dream of? / Last remembered dream?
A person I know dropped out of social media circles because they joined the secret services. I felt a pang of guilt that on this London trip I have again forgotten to arrange seeing them. They were a very kind, guiding, likable, and giving force in my younger life. I recall a flash of having met up with them. My dreams are mostly unpleasant anxious affairs. Though this dream was good in that I saw them, it felt less good on waking. I will invite them now to see them tomorrow.
Thanks for the reminder.

Can you recall the most profound experiences of your life?

If I were for example taken by extra- terrestrial forces and dabbled with and popped back into bed mind-wiped, would that count? Even if I did remember it I might not be able to make sense of it and I imagine profundity is predicated on understanding. Perhaps it isn’t.

What kind of government / political system would a utopian world have?
How would it differ from the current situation?
If everyone gave slightlly more than they took, everything would be sorted near immediately.
The most political act you can perform is that of kindness. A Utopian mindset I suppose. My idea of Utopia may be different from a Rochdale paedophile ring’s.

Is war just the way of the world? Or could a perfectly peaceful society be realised one day?
Playing village cricket and hearing about all the baby boomer concerns about village life you realise just how stuck people are in this country in thinking that post-war Britain is forever Britain, where everyone has their own car and change in world ecology is not an issue and no-one should have their view of countryside spoilt by a waystation piping windfarm energies inland. The scope of imagination ends at hedgrow disputes. Macro wars in perpetuity, which will end in a Mad Max scenario or in human evolution via combination with, or replacement by, artificial intelligences. ‘Artificial’ will be seen to be an ill word choice, if what replaces us even cares to consider such things any more.

What is your worst nightmare?
That there is a force in the Universe that can work out my worst fear and make it come true.

What is your aspiration, life goal?
To have a healthy income through the creation of my fictions. There are creatives amongst us who hanker for the world to stay as it is, so we can continue wallowing in our arts.

What time of the day is most agreeable / productive for you?
Writing is best done in the morning upon waking, before the mind can get in the way. Drawing is a darker force best done as the sun wanes.

What artwork do you have in your house?
I have artwork from friends in boxes mostly, ready for some future imagined abode.
In my room in the open I have a sculpture of an internal organ by Theo Reeves-Evison in black finish. He incorporated imagery from my comic Ulyssses into a sculpture and in return I incorporated one of his sculptures into the comic 2BY2. There is also a drawing by Charles Chandler (Jon’s father) of a character made up out of wallpapering tools. Charles is a painter and decorator by trade. There is a fuzz worm in a jar made by Waleria Petrushenko. And there is a ceramic boot made by Leon Sadler. He once asked what I was having for tea in Suffolk and I said cold custard out of an old boot. So he made that for me and gifted it to me alongside a tin of custard.

How do you feel about graffiti?
I prefer to observe a wall of brick, look at the colours and patterns in them. Overrall indifferent. I like to see things exactly as how they have come to be, not any other way I would prefer.

What would you do with infinite money?
If you funded every charity with unlimited funds would they not evolve quickly into some kind of mini-state and begin conflict with the others? Better to hurry along human/AI evolution.

What would you not give up for $1,000,000 in cash?
Give me some offers and we’ll see.
I sometimes see those scenes in a film where people are made to do things at gunpoint and I always think I would be dead immediately or have to see others suffer as consequence of non compliance. I’d give up nothing. But can I take the bribe in Euros instead?

What is your biggest weakness?
Revealing weaknesses unbidden, or hiding them.

How do you feel about your own physical body?
It is a type of prison that has to travel and feed. Relentless feedery.
What it takes in affects its mind. Much as a prison or school’s character is a result of its inmates and overseers.
It’s a prison with no escape, poised to slide into the second half of its life, to wither and atrophy.
Overrall I have come to accept this body. I try to keep up efforts not to let it fall to early ruin.

How optimistic are you about the future of the human race?
I am optimistic that time’s up very soon.

If you could transport to any place during any period of time, where and when would it be?
A common fantasy is to imagine what would happen if I am transported with my current mind into my old body at various times of my life. Of course this is madness, it would be incompatible with a four year old’s neural pathways for example, and doubtless all bodies after until now this very nanosecond. I rarely contemplate going forwards in this body because of being in a worse vehicle, and because into-the-past travel is a fantasy of fixing mistakes, though I’d love to have a look at what’s coming down the pipe for us. A friend once said to me that he wouldn’t want to relive the past because you would just make the same mistakes in different places.

Describe your artwork
Mostly working in narrative fictions; drawing and writing comics and writing novels.

What do think is your best piece of work? Why do you think it is most successful?
Perhaps the blog turokreader.blogspot.com
I wrote a diary blog about another British man I lived with when I moved to Tokyo.
When I first moved into the share house we lived in I discovered after some weeks that an Australian man who lived there was writing a totally self absorbed blog about the mundanities in his life. I found out that many people knew of it on the downlow like a secret network. It mostly involved his addiction to and conquests of those claw-grab arcade machines. Real horrorshow.
His blog had mentioned me getting a girl in my room on my first night in Japan, and the detail ended there. This was a lover I had previously known in London, but to a wider community this was my introduction, to which I was oblivious.
Then I came upon the idea to do a blog entirely the opposite, to write one only concerned with someone else’s daily comings and goings.
When I left the house I sent the link to Colin, the subject of the work.
I have since learnt that this blog also spread like a secret club. It is still talked of and revisited ten years down the line. He is totally framed as a mad cat, though a totally lovable one, but everything in it is totally true.
A best piece of work is not necessarily the most succesful, but this one perhaps is. As I was in a new place I hadn’t yet settled down energetically to a place where I was able to make any new works. By writing that blog without consciously doing it as an art piece it had satisfied that need in me and also skirted the imposition of a thirty year old man’s ego.

Is there such a thing as a perfect / totally successful piece of art?
That you strive to create? If not, what is your intention as an artist?
My comic You Are Crumbling My Jonathans came close. It works on near every level I could hope for. And I could now give up comics with a satisfaction if I so wanted to.
Think about having conversations. You have good conversations, where you feel you have listened and learnt something and added something good to the broth, without being overbearing. Other times I give things up that are too personal, just to see what happens and what reaction I get, or out of some kind of desire or pressure to entertain.
The worst conversations are where you get stuck with a devil’s advocate, and everything feels like a false opposition, where your ideas are challenged without any real thought as to to why. It is like being lost in a fog, especially if it was a personal story or thought that led there. Is there such thing as a perfect / totally successful conversation? No. Is that the purpose of conversation? Would you never talk to anyone again if you had one that was the most perfect you could ever recall?

What do you think about when you are working in the studio?
As little about outside concerns as possible when working. A lot of effort for an artist is the clearing of the decks. The outside world of course feeds the work, indeed it is everything. But if you are directly overwhelmed with some kind of personal dilemma or bureaucratic entanglement then the work suffers.

Describe how you feel about your work space / studio
I work at a standing desk. The view is west, inland over flat Suffolk lands. Pylons stretch from the right to a point over the horizon to the left. It is splendid. Storms and sunsets and rolling weather fronts. Summer nights with window open listening to the barks and brutalities of wildlife.
I recently heard rumour of new house planning for the field at the back of my house. My heart plummeted. But this may not come to pass and is more likely to appear at the far end of the field, at the back of a neighbouring village. Eventually all must pass. Learning to let go and walk away from things has been the most freeing of life lessons.

Have you ever had an experience / hallucination / dream that has deeply affected you, and if so how? Does this influence your artwork?
In Japan I encountered an entity. To know there are things and forces lurking beyond the veil is frankly a thrill. It was not seen as a spectre in an abandoned house where every long shadow and creaking door gets your imagination flowing. It appeared at a New Year’s party several floors up in a large hotel room. Amongst the many revellers I saw it shadowing someone. A dark shadow with female energy. I was the only person who saw it as I witnessed it through a camera lens. It was right in front of me. It took some seconds for me to interpret what I was seeing. The shock prevented me from taking a picture. This is the first I’ve said of it publicly. It has taken many years to be able to openly talk about it. This is not the end of the story, but that’s enough for now.
I don’t know if anything informs my work more than any other thing. I don’t see things as separate in the world. It is all one terrible glob.

Can you describe the way that your artwork is in some way autobiographical? / Do you ever represent yourself in your imagery?
For John’s Worth I tried to draw a character that looked like what I thought I might look like but I don’t have a good grasp on it. Much like my drawings, I appear different to myself in every capture.

Which tools do you most like to draw with?
For film drawings – where I draw single moments from stills – I have taken to using the Pentel sign pen on very smooth paper I sourced from a local printer. I don’t have the paper specs to hand.
For John’s Worth I’ve been using a Lamy super fine fountain pen, drawn into plain cahier extra large moleskin journals.
For an upcoming group comic work I am using dip-pen, either Tachikawa G-pen or the Brause Iserlohn Pfanenfeder #50 on that smooth paper. Bristol Board is perhaps preferable but it’s very pricey in the UK and sometimes you get a bad batch, too fibrous, that clogs the nibs.
For many comics works now I use biro on copy paper. It appeals to me to use ubiquitous and throwaway items I could buy in any town in any country. The fast and gritty look of the art helps get across the joy of drawing, and I prefer that story and circumstance should always circumvent overbearing style. There’s something more complex going on there as well. As if a ruggedness can give the material a raw and direct edge that cuts straight through.

When/why did you decide to be an artist?
I have one other skill in life which is being a Super Recogniser so I might get into that ready for when androids need identifying. Not because I think we’ve more right to be around than them, but because it’s a way to make a buck.

What things influenced you early-on, as a child?
Anything otherworldly.

How much does your work sell for? How much do you think your artwork is really worth? / If you were to sell your best piece of work, what is the minimum amount that you would accept for it?
It depends who is buying and how much worth I put on the work myself. I would say the general range is between £50 and £500. Art is worth as much as someone will pay for it.

Can you give a short description of what you believe defines modernism / what is modern?
I have had no formal arts training beyond practical film making school, which was in the final years of the last analogue century. Largely auto-didactic, I was never instilled with a reverence about movements and labels very much.
What is modern is platforms where any old cunt who fancies themself as an artist can try and hog the social media airwaves, in constant combat with funny videos and hardcore polemics and digital photographs of life mundanities. An editorless world run by algorithms is a brutal world.
Everythng is scales in life, you can’t have anything without there being a payoff for it. Yes anyone can have a platform now. But unfortunately, also, everyone can have a platform now.

Do you define your work as conceptual?
When I was in film school I made a 24 hour film. It was shot on two video cameras for twelve hours. Just filming in my student house what was going on that day, between noon and midnight. The idea was to then create fictional sequences to insert into the film. The finished piece would show as two twelve hour feeds concurrently on two screens, between the hours of noon and midnight. I lost interest before I got to that stage. Perhaps unfortunate. But when we were filming there was a section where a button was pressed by accident and the date came on. The date was several years into the future. In that future I packaged the tapes and addressed them to The Current Occupiers at that address where we had shot the footage.
I arranged for the tapes to arrive on the date that appeared on one of the tapes. I gave no return address.

Favourite things
Favourites do not exist until the question is posed. They hang on people like
cool projections on a catwalk. They are false.
Instead I’ll talk about some things that have recently involved me.

What is your favourite film?
Most recently Crusing and also American Gigolo.
I have a film watching project where I am trawling films by year, currently I am at 1980.
There is a record of this where I paste up the theatrical posters of everything I watch at everythingisatthrough.tumblr.com

Favourite writer / book?
Just finishing ‘Nova Swing.’ Book two of the ‘Light’ trilogy by M. John Harrison.

Favourite comic?
Noel Freibert’s Old Ground got me in a way not much has for a long time.
Not since Gabriel Corbera’s Days Longer Than Long Pork Sausages.
The way Noel lets his characters morph so violently from one panel to the next while maintaining total validity, and indeed actually making the story more involving for it. Reading it made a work I am now drawing feel like a terrible prison. A masterclass.
Also Brad Gottschalk’s new graphic novel Salvage is being serialised on his website at silenttheatercomics.com. I greatly look forward to the print edition on its completion.

Favourite painter?
Every time I see Diego Velasquaz’s ‘Las Meninas’ in a newspaper or magazine I cut it out. I don’t know why or what I plan to do with them.

Favourite musician?
As I write this answer I am listening to FKA Twigs.

Favourite building / architecture?
Modern or Brutal.

Favourite meal & drink?
Dad’s.
Drink? A half an ale after a parched section of a day or night. And then the other half.

Favourite smell?
Dad. Also other associated smells: paint, freshly cut wood.

Favourite museum?
Science Museum because I also get to see the artist Emix Regulus who works there.

Favourite plant?
I own one plant. It is a hairy Himalayan cactus. With my family on one of those interminable garden centre visits was asked if I wanted anything, when I was aged 7 or 8. I chose a small hairy cacti. Looks fluffy and grabbable but disguises the most vicious spines. It still lives. It has grown to a metre.

Any other favourite things? Objects / People / Places?
My section of the Suffolk beach.
Dark Souls.
Entering the Dark Souls world with Famicon’s GHXYK2 who now lives on
another continent.
An early-neolithic flint axe dug from beneath our own grounds.

Have you ever been deeply moved / or experienced emotional response to a painting or piece of artwork / exhibition, can you describe the experience?
A Jack Kirby full page portrait in a late period Captain America comic.
Not for the subject matter but for a deep overwheling power in the man’s work. Came down on me like a heavy wave.

What quality do you most value in other people?
Strength. Kindness. And the strength it sometimes takes to be kind.